Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Blood Fest: Fans Become Meat for the Grinder

Does it really make sense to stop for a booty call when you are being stalked by a psycho killer? Teenage hormones are powerful that way, but they greatly jeopardize your chances of surviving a horror movie. Nobody understands those rules better than the fans attending a weekend horror party, but they break them anyway in Owen Egerton’s Blood Fest (trailer here), which opens this Friday in Los Angeles.

“Blood Fest” is sort of like a renaissance fair for horror, but not quite as cheesy. It is exactly where Dax Conway wants to be, but his talking head psychologist father won’t allow. For Conway, horror movies were something he shared with his late mother, but his father blames them for warping the mind of her murderer. Fortunately (not really), he will gain access through the reluctant help of a former classmate now pursuing her scream queen dreams.

However, as soon as the party starts, horror movie huckster Anthony Walsh reveals all the horrors are real and he is filming everything for his next gore-fest. To survive, Conway and his friends, hacker doofus Krill and his inexplicably platonic friend Sam, will have to rely on their knowledge of horror films if they want to survive the real horrors in store for them.

With its hip inside-fandom perspective, Blood Fest should have been much funnier than it is. There are some clever parts here and there, particularly the gags involving the fan-favorite tree-planting slasher franchise character, the Arborist. Dubbing the slasher part of the Blood Fest theme park “Hoddertown” is also a nice touch. However, it suffers in comparison to the thematically similar Funhouse Massacre, because Blood Fest completely lacks its manic energy.

It does not help much either that Robbie Kay’s Dax Conway is such a dull, uncompelling lead. In contrast, Seychelle Gabriel lights up the screen as Sam, with her mega-watt screen presence. Jacob Batalon can be painfully cringey as Krill, but he also lands some of the film’s best lines. Frankly, his explanation of why clowns are scary might just become definitive. However, the real shortcoming is Egerton himself, who isn’t sufficiently flamboyant or sinister to carry off a role like Walsh, regardless of the meta-irony.

Blood Fest sounds like a total stitch, but it is really just sort of okay, making it a disappointment based on expectations. Still, you have to give Egerton credit for ending it well, considering that is where ninety-five percent of horror movies crater. Even so, it remains stuck in the okay zone. Nothing you can’t wait on for Netflix or Shudder, Blood Fest opens this Friday (8/31) in LA, at the Laemmle Music Hall.